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[05 AUG 99] THE CHAMBER PRESS RELEASE
Chamber Joins Call For Family Friendly Cash Aid

The Chamber is calling for the Government to give financial help to small businesses to introduce new parental leave proposals.

The call follows the announcement by Trade and Industry Secretary Stephen Byers, setting out plans to give parents 13 weeks of unpaid leave during the first five years of a child's life.

The proposals are due to become law later this year.

Chamber President Peter Howden, fears that unless the Government introduces compensation along the same lines as existing rules for maternity pay, many small businesses will either not be able to comply or may have to scrap other non-statutory benefits that they currently provide.

He is also concerned that the new rule may actively deter employers from taking on young women and people with young families.

The call follows a survey by the Chamber which revealed that although most companies take a positive view of family friendly policies, they are worried by the cost implications of arranging temporary cover for key members of staff.

The Chamber survey showed that 75 per cent of Coventry firms intend to develop family friendly policies and that 35 per cent already allow fathers an average of 9.81 days leave for the birth of their child and 88 per cent give time off for family emergencies.

However, more than half of those companies surveyed said they could not cover the loss of a key member of staff for more than two weeks at a time and 68 per cent are opposed to parents taking the statutory leave in one three-month block.

Mr Howden said:

"Most companies want to develop family friendly policies and working environments and many employers already offer benefits beyond the unpaid arrangements this new directive will introduce.

"However, without recompense for the additional burdens that firms will face as a result of this directive, many of these extra, non-statutory, benefits may be lost. Economies of scale mean that those firms employing fewer than 50 people are likely to be hardest hit by the changes.

"We are urging the Government to limit the potentially damaging impact these new regulations could have. We are therefore fully behind calls for the Government to compensate small firms for temporary cover, along the same lines as the existing rules of maternity pay which allow, for example, qualifying firms to reclaim 105 per cent of the costs."

MORE INFORMATION: Dan Carter  01203 654326
   

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CWN / Business / The Chamber / 5 Aug 99

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